Mark Steyn is one of my favorite writers of the short essay. He is brilliant at it. He was interviewed over at Right Wing News today and had this to say about faith and secularism in America and Europe. Here is the relevant bit:
John Hawkins: In your opinion, why is it that Europe has become so much more secular than the United States, where Christianity is still strong?
Mark Steyn: The short answer is separation of church and state – and I use that phrase as it was intended to be used: The founders’ distaste for “establishment of religion” simply means that they didn’t want President Washington also serving as head of the Church of America and the Archbishop of Virginia sitting in the United States Senate – as to this day the Queen is Supreme Governor of the Church of England and the Archbishop of York sits in the House of Lords. Most European countries either had de jure state churches, like England, or de facto ones, like Catholic Italy. One consequence of that is the lack of portability of faith: in America, when the Episcopalians and Congregationalists go all post-Christian and relativist, people find another church; in Britain, when Christians give up on the Church of England, they tend to give up on religion altogether.
So the dynamism of American faith exemplifies the virtues of the broader society: the US has a free market in religion, Europe had cosseted overregulated monopolies and cartels. The other salient point is that obviously Europe does have a religion: radical secularism. The era of the state church has been replaced by an age in which the state itself is the church. European progressives still don’t get this: they think the idea of a religion telling you how to live your life is primitive, but the government regulating every aspect of it is somehow advanced and enlightened.
Read the whole thing (Broken link, active June 29, 2005).